11 Best State Parks in Minnesota

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best state parks in Minnesota
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Minnesota is an ideal place for nature lovers, and one can find many state parks that one can visit with family and friends. Minnesota offers some of the best state parks to enjoy many outdoor activities, from hiking to kayaking. One can indulge oneself in activities such as mountain biking, horseback riding, and camping. Go fishing, hunting, and boating as these state parks offer you all.

From camping to hiking, Minnesota’s state parks offer you all. There are 75 state parks to choose from to enjoy an amazing time with your loved ones. Some popular ones are Split Rock Lighthouse state park, Jay Cooke State Park, Whitewater State Park, Itasca State Park, and many more. If you plan your next visit to Minnesota and want to spend some time in a state park, here is a list of the best state parks in Minnesota to choose from.

1. Split Rock Lighthouse State Park

best state parks in Minnesota
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Minnesota should be visited for the beauty of the North Shore of Lake Superior. With the same name, the Split rock lighthouse was built in 1910 by the United States Lighthouse Service. It is a 2,200-acre green space that was established in 1945.

The historic Split rock lighthouse is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the entire nation. One can enjoy the beautiful lighthouse from the pebble beach shoreline and learn about the interiors with the help of the History center. The History Center, through exhibits, displays, and video presentations, tells a lot about the lighthouse’s history, and one can also take a 20-minute tour of the lightkeeper’s home to know their way of life.

One can enjoy various fun activities such as hiking, cycling, boating, kayaking, fishing, scuba diving, cross-country skiing, and many more, making this state park one of the best state parks in Minnesota. If you want to know about shipwrecks, attend a ranger program to learn about them.

Overall, split rock lighthouse park features everything from beautiful trails, cobblestone beaches, cart-in campsites, and many fun activities, making it to the list of best state parks in Minnesota.

Address: 3755 Split Rock Lighthouse Road, Two Harbors, Minnesota

2. Jay Cooke State Park

best state parks in Minnesota
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If you want to enjoy the stunning views of the St Louis river, then Jay Cooke state park is worth a visit. The river is a tributary of Lake Superior.

It also comprises 188 campsites, 88 of which have electrical hookups and can accommodate RVs up to 50 feet long. One can easily travel from the town of Duluth to this beautiful state park.

After reaching, the most exciting part is walking across the iconic Swinging Bridge across the St. Louis River. Hiking up to Oldenburg Point is the next best thing to get a panoramic view of the river. Carlton Trail is the best to get the best views of the state park. High Landing Camp is one of the most popular spots to camp in the park, which also gives a good idea of the surroundings.

Also, one might enjoy the historical sites built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. This park is best for bikers, backpackers, horseback riders, skiers, and hikers, as one can enjoy all the fun activities here.

There are plenty of chances that one might see wildlife here, especially the white-tailed deer. One might catch a glimpse of the marsh hawk and great blue heron. The pileated woodpecker can also be found here. Timberwolves, black bears, and coyotes also belong to this state park.

Overall the Jay Cooke state park offers beautiful trails with amazing views and fun activities and is a great park for wildlife, making it to the list of best state parks in Minnesota.

Address: 780 Minnesota 210, Carlton, Minnesota

3. Whitewater State Park

best state parks in Minnesota
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If you want to swim on the sandy beaches of the Whitewater river, then surely visit the next on the list of best state parks in Minnesota, the Whitewater state park. The state park is placed where the Whitewater River flows in southern Minnesota.

Come here to indulge in outdoor activities ranging from swimming to hiking trails. Camping opportunities are great here too.

The state park is a vast 2,700-acre park. Facilities here are as old as the 1930s, which found their use in politics/ government, entertainment, and landscape architecture.

The Whitewater State park is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and recognized as a U.S. Historic District. One can cast a line in Trout Run Creek, swim in the Whitewater River, or explore the many limestone-bluff hiking trails across the park.

Fishing can also be another fun activity to do when in the park. One can surely visit the visitor center to know the area’s history.

Other fun activities include snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and wildlife. One can find 250 varieties of birds, and among mammals, one can find 50 different types too. One can also visit the Elba Fire Tower, a historic site east of the town of Elba, which is 2 miles from the park. All these features and activities of the park make it one of the best Minnesota state parks.

Address: 19041 MN-74, Altura, Minnesota

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4. Tettegouche State Park

best state parks in Minnesota
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Next on the list of best state parks in Minnesota is Tettegouche State park. Formerly known as Baptism River State Park, this 9,346 acres park has a wide variety of things to explore. The place on the north shore is filled with rivers, six inland lakes, hiking trails, four waterfalls, and pebble beaches.

One can also enjoy rock climbing, given a designated section that is difficult to find in the Minnesota state park system. The Tettegouche state park has 100 designated wall climbing areas to choose from.

The Tettegouche state park has many areas where you can set up a tent to stay and explore more or opt for the Tettegouche Camp Cabins for a luxury stay. The park is good for camping and has many designated areas for RVs, tent sites, and group campsites. The visitors center has a free electric vehicle charging station for staying a night or two.

Fun activities in Tettegouche state park include hiking trails, rock climbing, picnic at Nipisquit Lake, skiing, canoeing, and fishing, making it to the best Minnesota state parks.

Address– 5702 MN-61, Silver Bay, Minnesota

5. Grand Portage State Park

If you want to see the highest waterfall in Minnesota, visit the Grand portage state park, which surely falls on the list of best state parks in Minnesota. This 278-acre state park is the only park not to be owned.

Canada – United States border is where this state park is placed. Being popular and on the list of best Minnesota state parks, the Grand Portage state park is a treat.

On entering this day- visit only state parks. The platform is wheelchair accessible, which makes the view of the High falls very convenient.

The trail came to be known as The Grand Portage, which was made to bypass the falls. Next is the Middle falls, providing excellent waterfall views and the sight of Lake Superior.

Other amazing activities include visiting the monument and historic gardens, knowing about the Ojibwe, and not forgetting flora and fauna.

Address: 9393 MN-61, Grand Portage, Minnesota

6. Itasca State Park

best state parks in Minnesota
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Next on the list of best state parks in Minnesota is the Itasca state park. Established in 1891, Itasca state park is Minnesota’s oldest state park spreading across 32,000 acres of land. It is one of the oldest and most popular Minnesota state parks. This state park is where the headwaters of the Mississippi River is located. There are as many as 49 miles of trails to explore the area.

Start by visiting the Jacob B. Brower Visitor Center to learn the history of the place and about the events that contributed to the park’s history. One can also learn a lot from the interpretive displays at Mary Gibbs Mississippi Headwaters Center.

The Itasca state park comprises ancient forests, towering pines, lakes, and some of Minnesota’s best campsites, making it a must-visit Minnesota state park. One can enjoy finding bird species such as loons, cormorants, and grebes.  Hummingbirds, finches, and warblers can also be spotted over a coffee from the Douglas Lodge.

Fun activities to do here include hiking, fishing, camping, and exploring historical sites. For hiking, go for the scenic Bohall and Nicollet Trail. Next, take a beautiful wilderness drive and find yourself among the tall north woods trees. Finally, visit the historic Douglas Lodge. One can have a nice meal with good drink options at the cafeteria-style restaurant Headwaters Cafe. This state park is a must-visit and falls on the best Minnesota state parks list.

Address: 36750 Main Park Drive, Park Rapids, Minnesota

7. Blue Mounds State Park

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The Blue mounds state park is next on Minnesota’s list of best state parks. Known for its Sioux quartzite rock outcroppings, the state park is located near the town of Luverne. The park in central Minnesota is 1,532 acres with unique geographical features and beautiful sceneries, making it one of the best Minnesota state parks.

Initially, these rock formations were blue and stuck to the park for 150 years. Now the visitors see these formations to be pink in colour rather than blue.

Blue mounds state park’s fun activities include rock climbing and swimming in the small reservoir. One can also visit the interpretive center, which was once the home of author Frederick Manfred in the Blue mounds state park.

One can opt to hike, camp, swim, mountain bike, or go cross-country skiing. This state park has everything, making it enter Minnesota’s list of best state parks.

There are 77 wooded sites open year-round with accessible disabled-friendly cabins. Each location features a fire ring and a picnic table. Interestingly the park is home to a herd of American bison too.

Address: 1410 161st Street, Luverne, Minnesota

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8. Gooseberry Falls State Park

best state parks in Minnesota
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Established in 1937, Gooseberry falls state park also falls on the list of best state parks in Minnesota. It is located in the northeast corner of Minnesota, in the town of Two Harbors, roughly 45 minutes north of Duluth.

This state park is a must-visit place for waterfall lovers, with over 15 waterfalls. Gooseberry falls state park is placed along the Lake Superior shoreline and is a very popular Minnesota state park featuring stone structures, lava flow, and a river gorge.

Hiking trails and cycling are included in the fun activities to do here. One can opt for 18 miles of hiking trails or 8 miles of mountain biking trails connected to the Superior Hiking Trail. Other fun activities include horseback riding, canoeing and kayaking, cross-country skiing, and fishing. All these fun activities make this state park a must-visit, making it on the list of best state parks in Minnesota.

Be sure to visit the Joseph N. Alexander Visitor Center to learn more about the state park. The center has many interpretive displays and exhibits, a cinema screening room, and a gift shop full of local souvenirs.

Those who would love to camp can stay at the park’s seventy non-electric camping sites. One must visit this state park to enjoy all these activities, which makes this state park fall into the list of best Minnesota state parks.

Address: 3206 MN-61, Two Harbors, MN 55616

9. Banning State Park

Next on the list of best state parks in Minnesota is Banning state park. The state park is located roughly an hour south of Duluth and along the mesmerizing Kettle River. One can enjoy its history and beautiful scenery, making it one of the best Minnesota state parks.

Activities to enjoy- rock climbing sandstone cliffs, hiking trails to witness the interpretive signs, and sandstone quarry for which the Quarry Loop Trail is popular. The Quarry Loop trail runs alongside the rugged banks of the Kettle River. The hike features breathtaking rock formations made vibrant by liverworts, lichens, and mosses.

Another popular attraction of this state park is Wolf Creek Falls, where one can enjoy a good lunch and take good photos alongside the beautiful scenery. Other state park features include drive-in sites, electric sites, and a few canoe sites.

To indulge in the history of Banning state park, visit the Sandstone Quarry near Hell’s Gate. One can get a stunning view of Hell’s Gate Rapids and portions of Mother’s Delight, Blueberry Slide, and Teacher’s Pet from a trail that leads to the Teacher’s Overlook, which is the best highlight of the park. For camping purposes, the park features four group campgrounds that accommodate up to 150 people. Overall, one can say that these features make this state park enter the list of best state parks in Minnesota.

Address: 61101 Banning Park Road, Sandstone, Minnesota

10. Cascade River State Park

Cascade River state park is located on the North Shore of Lake Superior, around 9 miles southwest of Grand Marais. The state park is known for its 5 scenic waterfalls. This state park also falls on the list of best state parks in Minnesota.

The trails connect to the North Shore State Trail and the Superior Hiking Trails. There are seven picnic sites in this state park, among which the site under a grove of cedar trees is one of the most beautiful spots in the entire park.

Fun activities to do here are enjoying and capturing the scenic areas along the lake and river, fishing, witnessing the mesmerizing waterfalls, hiking, and camping. For campers, 40 drive-in sites, four pull-through sites, or five backpack sites are available. All these features help the state park to fall on the list of best Minnesota state parks.

Address: West, 3481 Minnesota 61, Lutsen, MN 55612

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11. Soudan Underground Mine State Park

Finally, Soudan underground mine state park also enters Minnesota’s list of best state parks. U.S. National Register of Historic Places lists this historically significant state park, with the highlight being the mine tours. This unique feature of this park makes it enter the list of best state parks in Minnesota. This state park is a U.S. National Historic Landmark.

Some parts of the laboratory are accessible to the public for guided tours. Many open houses are held every year. People uncomfortable with tough spaces can opt for self-guided surface audio tours. The times are offered daily from Memorial Day to September.

Fun outdoor activities in the underground mine state park are hiking to the unique banded iron formation and bird and wildlife watching. One can take part in recreational opportunities at Lake Vermillion as well.

One can also avail of camping facilities at the Vermilion Ridge Campground, which has 33 sites.

Address: 1302 McKinley Park Road, Soudan, Minnesota

Conclusion

One could say that Minnesota is best known for its state parks. One can find many fun activities here, from hiking to camping. One can witness nature closely in a state park and get mesmerized by its magnificent beauty. From waterfalls to wildlife, one finds it all when one visits the best state parks in Minnesota.

Apart from the state parks in the list above, other Must – visit Minnesota state parks include Maplewood state park, Voyageurs national park, Crow wing state park, Lake maria state park, Glacial lakes state park, the historic Fort snelling state park, and Interstate state park.

There are so many outdoor activities that one can enjoy with friends and family. When you are in Minnesota next time, make sure to visit one of the best state parks in Minnesota to have a good time.

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